It’s official – Gauteng, the former epicentre of South Africa’s Omicron variant driven surge in cases last November – has exited the fourth wave. But, Health Minister, Joe Phaahla, who announced the news while updating the country on government’s latest efforts to fight COVID-19 earlier today, is worried about the country’s vaccination rates.
“In terms of the technical definition of a wave, we can now say officially that Gauteng has technically exited the fourth wave this week,” said Phaahla.
Phaahla said the National Department of Health has seen a 13,9% reduction of new cases and 6.3% reduction in hospitalisations. However, the Western Cape, followed by KwaZulu-Natal, aren’t out the woods just yet. Both provinces recorded their highest number of cases this past week.
Vaccinations rates below par
As of 13 January, South Africa has administered 28.7 million doses of vaccines to a total of 18.4 million adults (45.5%) above the age of 18 years old. However, Phaahla said that the vaccination rollout struggled over the festive season because people focused on festivities. Since the start of the month, it has picked up but is still well below 100 000 does per day.
“The current rate isn’t good enough so we hope it increases,” said Phaahla.
The Free State leads the way with 54.1%, followed by the Western Cape at 53.6%, Limpopo at 52.2% and the Eastern Cape at 50%.
Gauteng is currently sitting at 42.12% as at 6 January 2022. Out of a population of 11 311 326 (aged 18 and older), 4 764 789 people have been vaccinated. South Africa’s economic hub is third last in terms of the percentage of its population which has been vaccinated. KwaZulu-Natal is languishing at the bottom with 38.43%.
“The challenge for Gauteng is just that they’re dealing with a very huge population. So despite administering close to five million doses, that only covers 42% of the adult population,” explained Phaahla.
Omicron severity shows encouraging signs
Dr Waasila Jassat, Public Health Specialist Response at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), said the decline in the weekly excess mortality is encouraging.
“We are consistently seeing a decrease in severity and deaths in the fourth wave. A lower proportion of patients were admitted as well as those requiring oxygen ventilation and treatment in ICU,” said Jassat.
“There was increase in the admission of children during the fourth wave, but not in terms of severity or death,” he said. Most affected individuals were unvaccinated.
‘Future does look brighter’
The highly mutated Omicron strain was first detected in South Africa last year which soon spread to all parts of SA. A total of 149 countries have detected this variant as at 6 January 2022.
“We cannot predict the future trajectory of the COVID-19 virus and its variants. But, we have been able to deal with the fourth wave. The future does look brighter if we all do our part to get vaccinated,” said Phaahla. – Health-e News